Words: Brooklyn Pakathi

Irish Whiskey

After a long hard day of sifting through reports, answering email and hopping from boardroom to boardroom (or coffice), you finally sit down to a copy of your favourite BLQ and a convivial Glencairn of choice whiskey, neat of course. But have you ever been curious about where that “e” might’ve come from? The one that sits so comfortably on the palate of its drinker but sets it apart from its near-duplicate whisky.

I’m speaking of the “e” nestled within the familiar words of whiskey.  What its difference might be to the spelling of whisky, an often confusing conundrum for most. But one that, for the most part, can be attributed to one key thing – location.

The product, a type of spirit distilled from a mash of fermented grains typically takes its spelling from the country of origin it is linked to. American or Irish producers typically spell “whiskey” with the extra letter. Canadian, Scottish and Japanese distillers lean towards “whisky.”

Traditionally speaking, Ireland and Scotland were the first countries to seriously produce whiskey, derived from the word “Uisce Beatha” a Gaelic term that translates to water of life. Uisce meaning water and Beatha meaning life. In present-day utilization, whiskey’s “ey” is from the Irish dialect and in the Scottish dialect that means only a “y” in whisky. There is also belief that by adding the “e” Irish distillers could differentiate their product from competitors’ whisky blends. 

Outside of Scotland, whisky (that’s without the e) is the normal spelling of the word in Canada, and Japan. Whilst America, like Irish producers, typically spell “whiskey” with the extra letter as a subsequence of Irish immigrants who brought the term to the US in the 1700s.

An easy way to remember which spelling comes from where is by recognizing that the countries with an “e” in their name spell it as whiskey. Ireland and the United States.

The countries without an “e” in their name spell it as whisky. Canada, Scotland and Japan.

But do the name differences impact the taste? Slightly, but ever so. Within the distillation process is where one of the main differences occur. Scottish whiskies are distilled twice whereas Irish whiskey is distilled three times. Distilling three times is known to produce a lighter and smoother spirit.

At the end of the day, it’s not so much the spelling that matters but rather more the taste. A taste so widely popular the world over.



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Irish Whiskey

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